I've been thinking a lot about my friend Jason lately, a very talented chef who has taken his talent of the wilds of New Hampshire, to L.A. Burdick's restaurant in Walpole. Burdick's is best known for their handmade chocolates, particularly their tiny chocolate mice with almond ears, but soon enough, I'm sure, their restaurant will begin diverting attention away from those mice.
Jason has proven himself an eager and willing dining and cooking companion, and I can't help but get nostalgic thinking about all of our culinary triumphs and experiments. There were roasted pumpkin seeds at Halloween, fruitcakes at Christmas (we had a blind fruitcake taste test one year, his mom's vs. my mother-in-laws), and a particularly trying gastronomic vacation to Alsace where, as guests of the board of tourism, we ate cabbage and pork knuckles for a week, washed down with local beer. We even had beer soup.
Jason singlehandedly cooked the meal for my wedding, a feast of modest proportions that consisted of boudin blank, flank steak and pork loin (heretofore referred to as "mixed grill"), bowls of sliced summer tomatoes with sea salt, corn salad with feta and herbs and a spicy peach chutney. He also cooked a meal for my very-important guest, the cookbook author Anne Willan, back when he was chef at a restaurant in Boston. Anne is a woman who takes her dining very seriously, particularly French food. So when Jason turned out pate a choux with black truffles and a rabbit dish with a sauce made from the bunny's own blood....well, let's just say it was a job well done. Of course, who can forget the time he pulled into the driveway with a whole baby lamb wrapped in plastic sheeting in the trunk of his car, then proceeded to make an Easter dinner that would make any Greek proud, replete with lamb two ways, braised and roasted.
Along the way, of course, were failures. What friendship is without them? There was the New Year's Day morning when Jason waved a tin of kippers under my nose, sending my champagne-weary stomach into knots. There was the red velvet cake I made for his birthday, a monstrosity so sweet that eating it was an act of deep friendship. There was the cake he made for our friend Sarah, scorched beyond recognition, but baked in a heart-shaped pan.
If a friendship can be charted by gastronomic highs and lows, ours is complete. I raise my glass to you, Mr. Bond, and the empanadas, galettes, sausages and cocktails still to come.